Thursday, August 13, 2009

interrogation inc.

NYTimes | In March 2003, two C.I.A. officials surprised Kyle D. Foggo, then the chief of the agency’s main European supply base, with an unusual request. They wanted his help building secret prisons to hold some of the world’s most threatening terrorists.

Mr. Foggo, nicknamed Dusty, was known inside the agency as a cigar-waving, bourbon-drinking operator, someone who could get a cargo plane flying anywhere in the world or quickly obtain weapons, food, money — whatever the C.I.A. needed. His unit in Frankfurt, Germany, was strained by the spy agency’s operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but Mr. Foggo agreed to the assignment.

“It was too sensitive to be handled by headquarters,” he said in an interview. “I was proud to help my nation.”

With that, Mr. Foggo went on to oversee construction of three detention centers, each built to house about a half-dozen detainees, according to former intelligence officials and others briefed on the matter. One jail was a renovated building on a busy street in Bucharest, Romania, the officials disclosed. Another was a steel-beam structure at a remote site in Morocco that was apparently never used. The third, another remodeling project, was outside another former Eastern bloc city. They were designed to appear identical, so prisoners would be disoriented and not know where they were if they were shuttled back and forth. They were kept in isolated cells.

The existence of the network of prisons to detain and interrogate senior operatives of Al Qaeda has long been known, but details about them have been a closely guarded secret. In recent interviews, though, several former intelligence officials have provided a fuller account of how they were built, where they were located and life inside them.

Mr. Foggo acknowledged a role, which has never been previously reported. He pleaded guilty last year to a fraud charge involving a contractor that equipped the C.I.A. jails and provided other supplies to the agency, and he is now serving a three-year sentence in a Kentucky prison.

The C.I.A. prisons would become one of the Bush administration’s most extraordinary counterterrorism programs, but setting them up was fairly mundane, according to the intelligence officials.

Mr. Foggo relied on C.I.A. finance officers, engineers and contract workers to build the jails. As they neared completion, he turned to a small company linked to Brent R. Wilkes, an old friend and a San Diego military contractor.

The business provided toilets, plumbing equipment, stereos, video games, bedding, night vision goggles, earplugs and wrap-around sunglasses. Some products were bought at Target and Wal-Mart, among other vendors, and flown overseas. Nothing exotic was required for the infamous waterboards — they were built on the spot from locally available materials, the officials said.